Nicaragua: where we learn Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, a country suffering from the effects of deforestation, legacy of political struggle, unjust trade agreements and climate change. It is also a country of staggering beauty, poetry, art, friendship, faith and generosity, which has inspired Amos Trust for the last 25 years and from which we continue to learn.
This pack contains prayers, poems, quotes and reflections about Nicaragua. Some are written by our partners in Nicaragua, others were inspired by them. All reflect the spirituality & hope of this very special place.
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Our partners in Nicaragua
God of the passionate heart / Prayer for Nicaragua
Walking on Lake Nicaragua/ Finding tears to water the soul
Learning Hope: The Avocado Tree School
43 Communities, 43 Hopes
The Campesino Mass
A Land Full of Poets
Give it up for Nicaragua
Using this pack All the prayers, reflections and poems in this pack are designed to be read aloud in a church service or small group, perhaps as a focus for prayer or as a discussion starter. Images You can download photos of people and places in Nicaragua from the Amos Trust Flickr group. There is a link here www.amostrust.org/downloads Voices In a service or small group, you could also play audio clips from the interviews with Damaris Albuquerque and Gilberto Aguirre, who work for one of our partners in Nicaragua, CEPAD. The interviews are part of our audio newsletter, Partners Together: Let Justice Roll. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a free CD copy, or search for Amos Trust on iTunes to download the newsletter as a podcast for free. Music You can download the song, Poets of Nicaragua by Amos Trust‟s Director Garth Hewitt from the iTunes store. This song is on the album, Moonrise. It was inspired by Garth‟s meeting with the Nicaraguan poet & priest Ernesto Cardenal on the Solentiname Islands in Southern Nicaragua. (The reflection on page 10 refers to this meeting.) Fliers You might like to give everyone at the service or in your group a flier about the work of Amos Trust‟s partners in Nicaragua. Contact email@example.com & tell us how many copies you would like of our A5 flier about Nicaragua. Action On the last page of the pack there is information about how you can get involved in our annual Lent Appeal, Give It Up For Nicaragua. 2
Introduction: Our partners in Nicaragua Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, a country suffering from the effects of deforestation, political struggle, unjust trade agreements and climate change. Amos Trust partners three local sister organisations in Nicaragua: CEPAD (which in Spanish stands for the Council of Protestant Churches, Nicaragua); Prestanic Microcredit and Amos Health and Hope. These grassroots organisations work to empower communities with the skills, knowledge and resources they need to work their way out of poverty. In rural areas such as San Jose Los Remates, our partners provide training in sustainable agriculture and health education. The community nominates one person to take the training and that person then passes on the skills they have learnt to everyone-else in the community. Farmers learn to organically improve soil quality and raise new crops. Basic nutrition and hygiene training keeps the water supply clean and halts the spread of preventable diseases. Women are empowered by learning how to use what little land they have to grow food and raise livestock. Small loans allow the very poorest to start their own businesses and work their way out of poverty. In La Concepcion, a town just outside the capital Managua, over 85% of the adult population is unemployed. Money is scarce for families, so only half the children in the town were able to go to school. Amos Trust has worked with CEPAD and the local community to create The Avocado Tree School. The school has made a huge difference to the community, not just providing education for the children, but bringing people together and giving everyone hope for the future. Go to www.amostrust.org/projects to find out more about Amos Trustâ€&#x;s partners in Nicaragua.
We walk with a community until a community finds that it has the skills needed to walk without us, and the people can claim the rights they did not know existed. Dr. Gustavo Parajon, CEPAD founder
God of the passionate heart Thank you for the values of your alternative community. They give us vocation, They show us causes, They show us the value of our neighbours. How to love one another, Why one person being treated unjustly matters, Because you are the God of the passionate heart. You are the God committed to the poor We are in a world where they are forgotten as the rich get richer. You are the God who calls for purity of heart. You are the God who calls for action, For us to do justice and show mercy and walk humbly. Thank you for the values of your alternative community, They give us our passion for life. May we never lose our sense of calling. Amen
Prayer for Nicaragua O Nicaragua You are a poem, you are a song Like a primitive painting, so bright and so strong. You are a story, you are a prayer You‟re the birth of a dream and we‟ll follow you there. You are bright colours and birds of all kinds You‟re trees and you‟re flowers, you‟re everything fine. O Nicaragua, you are a longing like an unspoken prayer, Where time holds its breath, you are joy and despair. O Nicaragua Land of beauty, land of creativity. We meet your people. We hear your stories. We are inspired by your poetry, paintings, songs and theology. Together may we learn to travel to justice for all, For the poor, the marginalised and the forgotten, As they battle against poverty. If there were justice in world trade, Nicaragua would stand a chance, May we campaign for this with renewed energy as we remember The struggling communities of this wonderful land. O God, companion of the forgotten and champion of the ignored, Be our inspiration and our guide to show compassion. Amen 4
Walking on Lake Nicaragua Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America. It extends down from the capital of Nicaragua, Managua to the bottom of the country. Much of the lake is surrounded by volcanoes. At the foot of the lake are the remote and very beautiful islands of Solentiname. The islands are famous as the home of primitive painters, and where the poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal established a faith community of artists.
Evening on the islands of Solentiname The contemplative Christ Walks out upon the water Spirit hovering in his wake. Come walk with me. An initial step, Then waves of doubt Like the volcano peaks silhouetted against the sunset Why are you afraid? Take my hand Walk with me Come, learn. I am the God of the poor The human and simple God Walk with me, walk out on the waters of Lake Nicaragua! Chris Rose, Associate Director, Amos Trust
Finding tears to water the soul In Nicaragua, where most people do not have a job And most do not have enough to eat, we find something special. Here your soul may find refuge and be renewed As they show you a Gospel of love that touches the forgotten poor Where they will show you an open and caring community. Where people have time and creativity and love And they believe in justice for all and in loving your neighbour. And when I stood in church in Managua tears flowed easily And I felt the restoring move of the spirit saying 'The boat that you must row cannot carry gold Or weapons that maim or kill, it will destroy your soul So leave it all behind for a much, much better way.' And I thank you God for words that heal, For examples that restore, For a place and a community That can water the deserts of the soul. Garth Hewitt, Director, Amos Trust 5
Learning Hope: The Avocado Tree School Just outside Managua the capital of Nicaragua is the small town of La Concepcion, referred to by locals as „La Concha‟. After years of corruption, civil unrest and the impact of several earthquakes and hurricanes, the government in Nicaragua is unable to fund free education. Over 85% of the adults in La Concha are unemployed and over half the children in the community were unable to go to school, until the community and Amos Trust‟s partner CEPAD set up the Avocado Tree School. Damaris Albuquerque from CEPAD wrote to tell us the latest news from this inspirational school. She writes: “The 2011 school year started on Monday 14 February. The school now has 380 students aged 4 – 19. There are 176 boys and 204 girls. The primary school has 177 students. Boys and girls both study maths, Spanish, English, sport, sewing and folk dancing. The 173 secondary school students also study geography, biology, and ecology. These subjects are very important for the future of Nicaragua as our country is feeling the effects of climate change. At the end of last year, a church in the USA presented the school with five computers. We are now working and praying hard to raise the money to aircondition a room to keep the computers in. Although computers might seem a luxury, computer training means that better job prospects for our children when they leave school. Avocado Tree is funded entirely by charitable donations, and during times of political unrest when money has been unable to get through, the 23 staff have worked without pay to keep the school open, in some cases for up to a year. The school has made a huge difference to the community, not just providing education for the children, but bringing people together and giving everyone hope for the future. Betty, a year 9 pupil at the school told me “My father is unemployed. My mother has had to go to Spain to work as a domestic help to send us money so that we could afford to eat. The only hope I have for my country‟s future is in our education.” Please pray for the Avocado Tree School, the 23 staff, our community and our children. Thank you.” Damaris Albuquerque, CEPAD, Nicaragua, March 2011
Why not give something up for Nicaragua and support the teachers of the Avocado Tree School? See page 11 for details 6
43 Communities, 43 Hopes. CEPAD (the Council of Protestant Churches, Nicaragua) is one of Amos Trust’s partners in Nicaragua. CEPAD trains local people in sustainable agriculture and community health care in areas of rural poverty. These people then pass their skills on to other people in their community. You can read more about CEPAD on the Amos Trust website, www.amostrust.org/projects
Aydaluz Lopez is 25 years-old. She lives in El Chamarro, Jinotega which is very remote area of rural poverty in the north of Nicaragua. She and her husband have a little girl. Aydaluz‟s husband is a farmer & she works helping him farm. CEPAD came to Aydaluz‟s town to help the local people set up all kinds of community projects including healthcare initiatives, agriculture training and education programmes. These projects are run by the local people themselves. Aydaluz was especially interested in the child behaviour and social care programmes. She now walks four kilometres every day to volunteer at a project helping fifteen special needs children from her community with their reading & writing skills as well as their behaviour issues. Sebastian Castellon lives in Zompopera, Jinotega. He is married with three children. He is a farmer who has taken sustainable agricultural training with a CEPAD project. He now grows different crops in his third of a hectare plot, crops which are better suited to the dry soil, which is now common in Nicaragua due to climate change. He has also learnt how to protect his plot with live barriers of companion plants. He no longer uses expensive chemicals against pests and he makes organic fertiliser. He shares his knowledge with his family and wider community, and he is hopeful that the fruit they now grow collectively will get a good price. These are just two examples of what 43 communities are doing, working alongside CEPAD to be the change they want to see. These communities are also setting up local resident action groups and their leaders are learning how to manage these projects long-term. Please pray for the families of the 43 communities in Nicaragua that work with CEPAD. Please pray that they continue sharing with others what they learn. Please pray that these communities will unite and become stronger so everyone can benefit. Please pray that together these families will be able to help one another out of poverty. Please pray for CEPAD‟s staff that they continue being faithful to the Gospel. Amen 7
The Campesino Mass The word Campesino translates as farmer, specifically peasant farmer. In Nicaragua the word peasant has dignity and status. It recognises the hard-working people of the land. In Nicaraguan traditional art you will often see paintings of Bible stories set in Nicaragua. The Campesinos identify Jesus as one of them, echoing Matthew 25 when Jesus likens himself to the “the least of these”. The Campesino Mass is used widely in churches throughout Nicaragua. Travelling in rural areas you will find most people will be familiar with these words. The words below are from an English interpretation of the Campesino Mass. You might use some of these words in a liturgy for a church service or as responses in prayers.
You are the God of the poor The human and simple God The God that sweats in the street The God with the weathered face That is why I speak to you Like my people speak to you Because you are the labourer God The worker Christ Hand in hand you walk with my people You struggle in the fields and the city You stand in line at the camp In order to be paid your day‟s wages I have seen you at the corner store Parked on a bench I have seen you selling lottery tickets Without being ashamed of that role I have seen you in the gas stations Changing the tires on a truck And even working on the highways With leather gloves in the sizzling sun. I firmly believe, Lord That from your fertile thought This whole world was born; That from your artist’s hand, Like a primativist painter, All beauty flourished: The stars and the moon The little houses, lagoons The little boats floating 8
Down the river to the sea, The immense coffee plantations, The white cotton fields And the forests mutilated By the criminal axe. I believe in you Architect, engineer, Artisan, carpenter, Bricklayer and shipbuilder I believe in you Creator of thought of music and the winds of peace and love I believe in you, worker Christ Light of light and true Only begotten son of God Who became flesh In Maryâ€&#x;s humble and pure womb To save the world. I believe that you were beaten With jeers, tortured, Martyred on the cross When Pontius Pilate, The hideous and soulless Roman imperialist Tried to erase the mistake By washing his hands of all blame I believe in you, Companero Human Christ, worker Christ Conqueror of death By your immense sacrifice You have begotten the new human Who is destined for liberation You are alive in every arm That raises itself to defend the people Because you are alive in the ranch In the factory, in the school I believe in your struggle without truce I believe in your resurrection. Amen
A Land Full of Poets You can download Poets of Nicaragua, the song mentioned in this reflection from iTunes. Just search for Garth Hewitt in the iTunes store. The song is on the album, Moonrise.
Nicaragua is a land full of poets - we were very fortunate on our last Amos Trust visit to spend time with one of the world‟s greatest living poets, Ernesto Cardenal. We talked to him about his poetry and also about his theology. He is a Catholic priest. I asked him if he liked the term „liberation theology‟, and he replied he preferred the term „theology of revolution‟. I thought this was very helpful and summed up something of the message of the Sermon on the Mount. Many years ago Cardenal was in the same monastery as the poet, social activist and monk Thomas Merton, and he was challenged by Merton to return to his home country and play his part in its development. Some years later Cardenal became a member of the government in Nicaragua in the 1980s, the Sandinista times. Before serving in the government, Cardenal went as a priest to Solentiname, an area of three islands, where he trained local people in arts and crafts in order to help them survive and support their livelihood. Cardenal still writes poetry and makes sculpture but he does not describe himself as an artist or a poet, he says he is as contemplative like his friend Thomas Merton. On the same visit to Nicaragua, we visited the House of Godoy, where we heard the brothers Carlos and Luis Enrique play their remarkable folk music. Their songs are passionate and strong about social justice, the beauty of Nicaragua, the people of Nicaragua, and a down to earth spirituality. These two encounters prompted me to write the song, Poets of Nicaragua. It is a tribute to this vibrant and creative land whose spirituality teaches us both to pause and pray and value the contemplative, and also to roll up our sleeves, do creative acts and work for justice. Garth Hewitt, Director, Amos Trust
Give it up for Nicaragua Each Lent we ask Amos Trust supporters to give up something for Nicaragua. We want you to give up something small that you regularly spend money on - a daily paper, a coffee on the way to work or your weekly bar of Dairy Milk, and to send the money you would have spent to us which we will pass on as a well-deserved bonus for the teachers at the Avocado Tree School. The dedicated staff at the school work long hours for minimum wage. The school is funded entirely by charitable donations, and receives no government funding. In the past when money has been unable to get through during times of political upheaval and natural disaster in Nicaragua, the teachers have forgone their pay to ensure that Avocado Tree has kept running. In some cases the teachers did not get paid properly for a year, putting strain on them and their families.
Why not challenge yourself, your small group or even your whole church to give something up for Nicaragua? Please give as generously as you can. We want the teachers to know they are not forgotten and that their dedication to the Avocado Tree School is appreciated. My father is unemployed. My mother has had to go to Spain to work as a domestic help, to send us money so that we could afford to eat. The only hope I have for my country’s future is in our education. Betty, year 9 pupil, Avocado Tree School
Where to send your money Donate via debit/credit card here, www.amostrust.org/support Choose „Lent 2011 appeal – Nicaragua‟ on the drop-down menu. Or a send cheque payable to Amos Trust. Please download and print off a support form at www.amostrust.org/support to send with your cheque, so we can claim the gift aid on your gift. Our address is Amos Trust, 83 London Wall, London EC2M 5ND. 11